Opening Up, a team event.

When 2 hands, 2 tools is brought up I assume it means to carry a tool to work with and a company specific tool. Company specific means engines bring attack lines and trucks bring ladders. OK, so let’s assume you are on the first truck company showing up, 1st in is not expected to throw ladders unless there is a obvious need for rescue. Everyone grabs a tool and heads for the building looking for life and fire. The open up or Irons firefighter on this truck (Or the engine’s Irons position) needs to power level a trail to the fire and start searching while the line is being deployed. Control doors etc…of course. None of this is Rocket Surgery. Does the Open up, Irons, position have to carry every tool that may be needed to force entry? No, just like engine companies aren’t expected to put all the fire out alone. It would be good if they did, but we still back them up with another line. The same should apply to forcing entry.
There are tomes written about how to force entry. I’m not going to tell you how to do your job. But let’s look at a couple variations of the Open up or Irons tools.
The most common combinations are a striking tool coupled with the Halligan either a Flat head axe, a Maul, an Adz,or an expensive custom variation of those three.

Open up

The photo above shows some of the options for FE tools for a first due that we carry. Depending on the occupancy we will also carry the Rabbit tool. In my city it is a Halligan and 3-4 lbs maul. Breaks your heart right? But don’t fret yourself, that combination works for 90%+ of all of our forced entry needs. Despite some people’s opinions to the contrary, mine included, it does get the job done. We may have to strike a few more times, but we get it done in a reasonable amount of time. Our overall fireground tactics are a little different than other departments and so are our occupancies. Our Irons Firefighter will frequently have to work alone with an engine company breathing down their neck. Hallways and stairways get crowded quickly so swinging large sharp tools sometimes isn’t the best idea. And trying to tell an engine company in our city to back off is an exercise in futility, they’ll run someone over with the line before stepping back. The maul doesn’t always do the job I’ll admit. But this is a team event. As the officer I like to carry the Adz for added striking force.
The Adz is it’s own animal, and I am a huge fan. It performs adequately for stand alone forcing entry, can be used as a striking tool and is better than most tools for heavy prying. The adz earns it’s position on the piece with it’s usefulness at overhauling the more substantial materials in a structure like thresholds, door and window frames and multiple layered walls and paneling. I would prefer a shorter adz end and a little more weight on the striking end because it does tend to want to twist more than other tools while striking. The blade is 2in wide, 9 1/2″ long with a 36″ handle so it gives slightly more mechanical advantage than the 30″ Halligans (Pro Bars) we carry. In my opinion, at 5lbs, it gives the best bang for the buck ($110). If you are going to dump some money on one do a search for “Building wreckers adz”
The flat head axe with the Halligan is almost unstoppable as has been demonstrated by Cpt Morris of FDNY R1 (Ret). Two firefighters who have trained together can accomplish much with this combination. When used by a single firefighter without much practice the potential power is lowered dramatically. You may be better off with a maul at generating a decent striking force. Please practice the axe/Halligan combo a few times before you use it. I’ve seen members attempt it without trying it first and they look like they are trying to carry too many items to the check out counter at a store. It’s OK to use what you are capable of using if that’s what gets the job done. Once you have realized you are lacking a skill its time to hone that skill.
The FDNY Roof Hook looks like a pretty good tool for forced entry. I’d love to get one and see what we can do with it. I don’t think I’d carry it on a first due incident because first due is assigned the front door. But I would most certainly like to try it on second due assignments or multiple alarm assignments. The second due is assigned the rear and rear doors tend to be more substantially secured. Also most of the interior forced entry work should have already been accomplished by first alarm companies so our focus may be on searching and checking for extension.

roof hook

The company should carry a variety of tools than can be used for multiple uses, but not in an overly complicated “As seen on TV” way. We don’t need to carry everything on the rig, we need to make what we have work, and work together.
There are dozens of companies out there that can teach forced entry. Challenge the tools and tactics they employ don’t be happy with going along for the ride, find out why. More importantly try new things when given the opportunity. If you smell food on the stove when you arrive and it’s time to force the door try a different tool combo, the food is done, it’ll wait. Remember to keep it basic, don’t over complicate it. Sure shock the door, but don’t get stuck on that as your “Go-To” for opening it. Every action needs to have a purpose and messing around kicking, bashing, shouldering and generally looking like a monkey molesting a football is unacceptable. Think about which way your prying effort is going to move the things the tool has been forced between.


  • Tim Walsh says:

    Guys all good truck companies throw ladders at EVERY working fire. Ladders are for us remember that not just trapped occupants.

    Happy New year!

    • anchorpoint1 says:

      While I agree with your statement, I would prefer a first in truck waste no time in beginning a search. Our aerials are always thrown at every fire call. Every time there is a fire call all aerials that have a shot at the building throw their aerials.
      In my opinion search comes first. Ground ladders by the first arriving truck only happens for rescue or after a primary search is completed.

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